Zechariah 8 Commentary Verses 9-17 | Let’s turn our attention to the 8th chapter of the book of Zechariah.
This book has started with a call to repentance for the Jews who had returned to Israel after being held captive in Babylon for about 70 years. The Jews apparently did repent and so God promised to turn to them.
Then we had those multiple visions in chapters 1-6 – many of them containing a hopeful message for these returned exiles.
And after that, we’ve been studying these two chapters – chapters 7 and 8 – in which God has been asked a question and is now in the process of answering that question. The question had to do with whether the returned Jews ought to fast or not.
Why were they fasting? Because about 70 years ago God had the Babylonians come in and destroy their temple because the Jews kept sinning against him.
But now that Zechariah and Haggai were preaching that these people need to get to work rebuilding the temple – and that’s just what they were doing – with the temple being resurrected before their very eyes… did they need to keep fasting about the destruction of this building that was now being reconstructed?
And as we’ve seen, God answers that question in four separate answers.
First, the Lord let these people know that their fasting wasn’t pleasing to him because they weren’t doing it for him. They weren’t loving God.
Second, the Lord told the people that their ancestors had sinned against their fellow-man.
And both of these realities – not loving God and not loving neighbor – caused the destruction of their former temple and thus was the ultimate reason that these people had been fasting in the first place.
Then we entered into the third response from the Lord to this question about fasting last time. And where the first two responses were negative and accusing the Jews of wrongdoing, this third response is full of forgiveness and mercy and wonderful promises.
And so, we covered verses 1-8 last time and saw the first part of this third response that God gives to their question about fasting. Lord-willing today we’ll be studying verses 9-17 to see the second part of this response.
Let’s read Zechariah 8:1-17 to see the broader context and then we’ll study verses 9-17 in detail.
[Read Zec 8:1-17]
Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.9
Let’s look at that 9th verse once more.
9 ¶ [Thus saith/Also says] the LORD of hosts;
[Let your hands be strong/Gather strength],
ye that hear in these days these words [by/from] the [mouth/mouths] of the prophets,
[which were/those who spoke/who were there] [in the day that/at] the [foundation/founding] of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid,
[that/to the end that/so that] the temple might be built.
So, this is encouragement for the Jews of Zechariah’s time to continue doing what the Lord sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to do. God sent those prophets to encourage the people to keep rebuilding the temple.
These prophets – Haggai and Zechariah and perhaps others that we’re unaware of – were sent when the temple foundation was laid already. The foundation was laid but the work was discontinued for 16 years while the people gave in to discouragement.
But now God has returned to these people and wants them to get back to doing what he sent them to Jerusalem to do in the first place – to rebuild that temple whose destruction the Jews were still mourning to that very day!
Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.10
Well – what reason does God give for these Jews to be strong and encouraged that the temple will be rebuilt?
That’s what God gives these people in verse 10 and 11. There’s a negative and a positive reality that should encourage them.
First the negative reality that they should remember in verse 10. God wants the Jews to contemplate how bad things were in the days before he visited them with these prophets who encouraged them to start doing God’s will again.
10 For before [these days/those days/that time] there was no [hire/wage/compensation] for man,
nor [any hire for/for] [beast/animal];
neither was there any [peace/relief/safety] to him that went [out or came in/about his business] [because of the affliction/because of his enemies/from adversity]:
[for/and/because] I [set/had pitted/had turned] [all men one/every one/everybody – each one/every man] against [his neighbor/everyone else].
So, there were economic repercussions to the Jews’ previous disobedience in not rebuilding the temple. Human labor wasn’t profitable. Animal labor wasn’t making any money.
There were also physical security concerns that resulted from their disobedience. The Jews were afflicted by their hostile neighbors. And that’s actually one reason that they originally stopped rebuilding the temple. However, God made that situation much worse.
And isn’t that the case that sometimes the thing that we allow to influence us away from obedience to the Lord… actually, the Lord will use to discipline us? That’s what happened to the Jews. They had no peace or safety because the adversity from their neighbors was so overwhelming.
Well, why all of this? Why the economic depression? Why the lack of physical security all around them?
That’s what God admitted to at the end of verse 10. God did this. God directly turned everyone against everyone else.
Why did he do that? Because the one thing he wanted them to do was the very thing that they refused to do – namely, rebuilding this temple.
So, that was the past for these people.
Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.11
But now, the encouraging future as God turns back to his people with compassion and blessing – verse 11.
11 But now I will not [be unto/treat] the [residue/remnant] of [this/my] people as in the [former days/past],
[saith/declares] the LORD of hosts.
So, God is the same. His character has not changed. Mankind is the same. God still knows that these Jews are going to sin and disappoint him. But the way that God is going to work with these people is going to change.
Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.12
And the way that God wants to highlight his changing approach to these people is found in verse 12 where he promises on them economic blessings. Before they were cursed economically. But now they will be blessed as they continue to build his temple.
12 For [the seed shall be prosperous/there will be peace for the seed/there will be a peaceful time of sowing/the seed will grow well/I will shew peace];
the vine [shall give her/will yield its/will produce its] fruit,
[and the/the] [ground/land] [shall give her/will yield its/its/will produce its] [increase/produce/yield/crops],
and the [heavens/skies] [shall give their/will give their/will rain down/will drop their] dew;
[and I/then I/I] will cause the remnant of this people to [possess/inherit] all these things.
So, seeds will be sown peacefully and will produce abundantly. There would be plenty of grapes and plenty of crops. There will be just the right amount of rain to nourish all of these things.
And just like God was directly involved in the revoking of these blessings – so, too, he reveals here that he is just as directly involved in the restoring of these blessings.
Now, we need to remind ourselves that this is how God decided to deal with his people in Old Testament Israel. From the beginning of God’s relationship with them obedience was met with material blessings and disobedience was physically cursed.
That’s not the way it works in the Church. And really, it’s not totally the way it even worked in the Old Testament. Since the fall of Adam, life has never been perfect for those who obey God – mostly because no mere man since Adam has been perfectly obedient to God.
Anyway, I’m just saying that we shouldn’t start to think that the way that God is working with the Jews here in Zechariah is the way he works with us. It isn’t, and we shouldn’t expect him to treat us the exact same as he treated Israel.
So, God was saying that he is going to change his approach to the Jews and bless them materially. So, the economic curses have been reversed.
Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.13
And now in verse 13 we’re going to hear that the adversity that the Jews had been experiencing from their adversaries was going to change as well.
13 And it shall come [to pass/about], that as ye were a curse [among/to] the [heathen/nations], [O/both] [house of Judah/Judah], and [house of Israel/Israel];
so will I save you, [and/that] [ye/you] [shall be/may become/will be] a blessing:
[fear not/Do not fear/Do not be afraid], [but let/let/instead let] [your hands be/be] strong.
So, in terms of their status in the eyes of their neighboring nations, Israel will go from being accursed in the minds of those nations to being blessed.
The nations will both perceive that the Jews are blessed, and the Jews will also actively bless their national neighbors.
And this will all happen when the Lord saves these people. And for that reason I am inclined to see between verse 12 and verse 13 something of a temporal break. There’s a break in the timeline.
I think up through verse 12 we have realities that happened in Zechariah’s day.
But in verse 13 we’re given reason to think that the activity in that verse is future.
One reason is that the Jews are going to be a blessing to other nations. I don’t believe that that has happened yet.
Another reason is that this is going to happen when the Lord saves them. And I know that salvation can have more of a physical context, but I think this in combination with their being a blessing to other nations has more of a spiritual and future context.
So, because these realities will happen in the future – the Jews were to not be afraid. These things could happen at any moment and are presented as imminent. And therefore, because of all the blessings that God promises the Jews, they were to not be afraid. They must not allow anything to make their hands weak so that they cannot do the work that God has called them to.
Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.14
And God is going to give these people more reasons to not fear and to strengthen their hands to do the work of rebuilding the temple. He’s going to give them another pair of contrasts between how he acted toward the Jews in the past and how he’s planning to act toward them in Zechariah’s day.
First the negative past.
14 ¶ For thus saith the LORD of hosts;
[As/Just as] I [thought to punish/purposed to do harm to/had planned to hurt/had determined to bring disaster upon] you, when your fathers [provoked me to wrath/made me angry/angered me],
saith the LORD of hosts,
and I [repented not/have not relented/was not sorry/showed no pity]:
So, in the past God made mental plans to bring disaster on his rebellious people for their rebellion. And after he made that determination he would not change his mind.
Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.15
But now, this. Just like God used to be toward Israel…
15 So [again/to the contrary/now] [have I/I have] [thought/purposed/planned/determined] [in these days/again] to do [well/good] [unto/to] Jerusalem and [to the house of Judah/Judah]:
[fear ye not/Do not fear!/Do not be afraid].
So, now in this book God is planning to do good to his people Israel and he will not turn from that determination.
And one more time God gives that encouragement to continue to do the work that he’s called them to do – don’t be afraid!
Do you think that they had reason to be afraid? Of course they did! That’s why they stopped obeying God in the first place. But God wants them to stop fearing people and start fearing him.
Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.16-17
Well, the Lord ends this third response to the question about fasting by putting some reasonable requirements on these people in verses 16 and 17. God wants to bless his people – but that doesn’t mean that he’s fine with them acting wickedly.
No, rather God lays out the requirements…
16 These are the things [that ye/which you/you] [shall/should/must/are to] do;
Speak [ye every man the truth to his neighbor/the truth to one another/the truth, each of you, to one another/the truth to each other];
[execute the judgment of truth and peace/judge with truth and judgement for peace/practice true and righteous judgement/and render true and sound judgment] in your [gates/courts]:
17 [And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts/Also let none of you devise evil in your heart/Do not plan evil in your hearts/do not plot evil] against [his neighbor/another/one another/your neighbor];
[and love no false oath/and do not love perjury/Do not favor a false oath/and do not love to swear falsely]:
[for all these are things that I hate,/for all these are what I hate/these are all things that I hate/I hate all this]
[saith/declares/says] the LORD.
So, speak truth to each other. Protect the innocent and make righteous judicial calls. Don’t plan to do evil to your fellow man. Don’t lie.
Or, said another way, love your neighbor. Positively speak truth and render decisions for people in a way that God would do if he were here on earth. Negatively, don’t plan to hurt your fellow-man and don’t lie to each other.
Anything else – any behavior that contradicts these approaches to life with your fellow-man are things that God hates.
So, to wrap things up, if response 1 to the question about fasting and mourning about the destruction of the temple could be summarized in the words, “Love God” and response 2 could be summarized as “Love Your Neighbor” then this 3rd response might be best summarized as God saying, “I have determined to bless you.”
And that only leaves response 4 – which is more exciting future blessing that lies in store for Israel in the days to come.